WENATCHEE — Confluence Health and Premera Blue Cross announced on Friday that they have reached a new multi-year agreement, ensuring that members would not experience any disruptions in health insurance.
Confluence Health had announced in early August that it did not intend to renew its contract with Premera, meaning that more than 36,000 patients in North Central Washington would be considered out-of-network when the contract ended Jan. 31.
“We are pleased to have reached a successful resolution with Premera and remain committed to ensuring patients and families have access to high-quality affordable healthcare,” Dr. Doug Wilson, Confluence Health CEO-elect, said in a news release Friday. “The new contract provides long-term stability allowing us to serve the people of the North Central Washington for many years to come.”
Chelan County commissioners expressed concern over the impasse at a Sept. 7 meeting with Confluence Health but are now pleased to hear about the new agreement. More than 400 county employees with multiple collective bargaining agreements would have been impacted by the decision, said county commissioner, Bob Bugert.
“Those family members will be quite relieved to have that assurance that their coverage will continue through the next couple years,” Bugert said. “We were looking at options. But frankly, there were limited options available. This is the best result possible for us.”
The Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority was concerned that the loss of Premera could impact the region’s development, said Jim Kuntz, the port’s CEO.
“How do we sell our region as a great place to do business when 36,000 residents who get coverage through their employers could have lost access to the predominant regional health care provider?” Kuntz asked. “What happens if we get a strong business lead for the area and their current insurance provider is Premera Blue Cross and they find out there would be limited health care providers if they move to Chelan-Douglas County? Would that impact their relocation decision?”
In early August, Confluence Health spokesperson Andrew Canning said that negotiations had reached a point where a deal was not likely.
But now that a resolution was reached, Canning said in an email that they were grateful to Premera for their collaboration.
Courtney Wallace, a Premera spokesperson, said in an email that Confluence and Premera always had the same goal — to ensure that patients receive affordable, high-quality care.
“The negotiations were comprehensive and helped us finalize an agreement that benefits our customers and Confluence’s patients,” she said.